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Essence of Monotheism (3)
Amin Ahsan Islahi
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)

Spiritual Arguments for Tawhid


Man looks first at the external and the visible, and when he develops maturity and wisdom, at his internal and invisible self: the soul. This is a postponement only until he turns his attention to it, because in reality, it is this inner self that reveals his outer self to him. The reason for remaining oblivious of his soul is not that it is very far from him. But his inattention is due to the fact that his soul is very close to him. In other words, the heavenly arguments for tawhid are founded on those within the human soul. There is no argument on earth or the skies that does not have its basis on some spiritual argument. The edifice of all of our reasoning is founded on this. If these spiritual arguments did not exist, just as this entire universe is useless for beasts and inanimate objects, it would have been a universe of darkness for humans too. Hence the universe is meaningless and purposeless for the ignorant people who do not ponder over the signs of the earth and the heavens. The Qur’an has declared them to possess even less intelligence than quadrupeds.

Now we look at the internal self that has arguments closer and clearer to us; they are strong and beautiful as well. The Qur’an has spoken of these in the following words:


وَ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ اٰیٰتٌ لِّلۡمُوۡقِنِیۡنَ. وَ فِیۡ اَنۡفُسِکُمۡ اَفَلَا تُبۡصِرُوۡنَ. (51: 20۔21)

“And there are signs on the earth for those who believe and also within yourself. Do you not look?” (51:20-21)


This verse speaks to the fact that arguments of the spiritual state are both close and clear. Hence God has expressed amazement at a human being’s inability to see them in spite of this nearness and clarity. It would be difficult to mention all of such arguments here. We shall, therefore, point out some that are mentioned in the Qur’an and are very obvious.


1.   The Covenant of Nature

The first argument among the spiritual ones for tawhid is that which we had explained in the last two chapters of the section on reality of polytheism. That is, the recognition of a true benefactor within the human soul is the most ancient and clearer of all concepts. We have earlier refuted the claim of scientific scholars that the most ancient concept within humans is one of fear that was born from observing the sights of the universe and that gave rise to the concept of worship. We have also proven through arguments that the emotion of fear requires recognition of the fact that life and the benefits of life are a blessing for a human being. As long as there is a feeling of life being a blessing, the feeling of fear and apprehension about it is totally meaningless. And, recognition of there being a blessing requires that there be recognition of the existence of a benefactor. The recognition of a benefit and a benefactor creates the feeling and the concept of gratitude within a human being. This feeling is neither due to only convention or practice nor merely the result of formalities of collective cultures. It is present even in beasts. We observe this with our own eyes in the animals who we keep as pets. Whenever we treat any cat or even an elephant with kindness, they express their gratitude and thanks to us in various ways. The same emotion, in a much more developed form, is present in humans. We term this feeling as fairness and justice. As a result, a human judges others with the same standard as the one with which he is judged. This is the feeling for justice that formed the basis of pure God worship and tawhid. This is among the most important arguments for tawhid. The demand of this natural justice, on the one hand, is that one accepts the rights of God fully and, on the other hand, no one else should be associated with the rights that are applicable only to God. The latter is considered in the Qur’an as the greatest tyranny, i.e. the greatest injustice and violation of rights. In other words, this means that the greatest justice is tawhid and the greatest injustice is shirk.

The Qur’an has declared this justice to be the covenant of nature:


وَاِذۡ اَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنۡ بَنِیۡ اٰدَمَ مِنۡ ظُهُوۡرِهِمۡ ذُرِّیَّتَهُمۡ وَ اَشۡهَدَهُمۡ عَلٰۤی اَنۡفُسِهِمۡ اَلَسۡتُ بِرَبِّکُمۡ قَالُوۡا بَلٰی شَهِدۡنَا اَنۡ تَقُوۡلُوۡا یَوۡمَ الۡقِیٰمَةِ اِنَّا کُنَّا عَنۡ هٰذَا غٰفِلِیۡنَ. (172:7)

“And remember that when your Lord drew forth from the children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): “Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?”- They said: “Yes! We do testify!” (this), lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: “Of this we were never mindful”


We repeat below some sections of the brief explanation of the reality of this covenant we had given in the last chapter of “The Essence of Polytheism.”


Some people throw doubt on this, expressing their ignorance of whether such a promise has been made to God or not: they neither know of it nor do they remember that they had taken up responsibility to implement such a promise by agreeing to it. Both these points require proof, given that they are so important that every child of Adam shall be called upon to bear witness to the same.


It is surprising that people do not know that when a drop of liquid enters a mother’s wombs and she, God knows, tolerates unbearable pain and difficulties, rearing the baby inside her, nurturing it with her own blood, and then gives birth to this lump of flesh after going through a life threatening experience. She then feeds it after transforming her blood into milk. After years of hard effort, she makes the baby capable enough to walk upon the earth. Then the time comes for the father’s sacrifice, his love, his nurturing and his training and education. This continues for a long time. During this period, if the father wants anything for himself, he wishes even more of the same for his child. He eats less, so that more is available for the child; he bears pain, so that the child could be in comfort; he puts his life in danger, so that his child could remain safe from every threat. This is a chain of the love, kindness and sacrifice of parents that enable a child to be nurtured and grow into an adult. If even one link of this chain is broken, the life of the child is threatened. Now imagine that the child grows up and the parents reach their old age: now they are dependent and he is free. But he does not take care of them and if anyone reminds him of the rights and obligations to his parents, he answers to the effect that he is unaware if his parents have any rights over him. He is ignorant of any responsibilities towards them. He has never agreed to or accepted such rights: would his answer be an acceptable one? Every person would declare such a son vile and ignoble, because he is refusing such a right and such a responsibility that is of paramount significance and there is no other responsibility more established and evidence of truth. This responsibility lies with every person. It is present without any written document; proven without any testimony and necessary without any demand. It is the natural promise of privilege and responsibility greater than all other responsibilities on humans.


Following the same rationale, a man accepts the right of the woman from whom he takes benefit, to be protected and honoured and to be provided sustenance. On the same basis, a man takes up obligations to protect and support his family and clan. On the same basis, the municipality of a town taxes the income of its citizens and on the same basis a state requires its people to share their knowledge and skills, their time and independence and their wealth and lives and, in case the existence of the state is threatened, their sacrifice to protect it.


Now imagine that a man becomes responsible for a woman’s honour but refuses to take responsibility for her upkeep and her rights and obligations and says that he has not made any such commitment. Or, a citizen walks the streets of a town; takes benefit of the health system; benefits from its parks and gardens; obtains the brightness from the lights available; takes advantage of the established schools, but when the time comes for the town to make demands, says that he does not accept any responsibility towards it. Similarly, a person is benefitting from all the rights of citizenship of a state; taking advantage of its peace and justice systems; becomes the owner of land; father of a son; husband of a wife; citizen of a state, but when the requirements of the state are expressed, he says that he is free of such commitments: he has never accepted that he would bear such burdens or ever get involved in such difficulties. Would his answers be legitimate? The wife would say that his excuse is wrong; the day that he used her honour freely and she had gave her body to him willingly, on the same day, he had made a strong covenant to fulfill all such responsibilities and the world would declare that such a man is ignoble and mean. The man’s tribe would say the same for this man, as would a municipality for its non paying resident, and a government to its citizen. The whole world would consider these statements to be correct and punishment for such a person legitimate. Every benefit carries with it a responsibility as self-evident even more than the sun is.


On the basis of this natural and all-embracing law of the above responsibility and legitimacy, the hen in our house; the cow in its pen and the horse in its stable; the plants in our lawn and the trees in our garden also have rights on us. We shall be considered lowly and mean if we refused their rights. We owe it to the hen whose eggs and chickens we consume that we protect it from cats and dogs; we owe it to the cow whose milk we drink and to the horse that we ride upon that we take responsibility for their feed; we owe it to the plant from whose flowers we gain the benefit of heady perfume and to the tree whose fruit we enjoy that we dig and add fertile soil to them and protect them from the destruction of cold and hot winds. We cannot refuse their rights. The day that we begin to obtain any benefits from their existence, that very day we have accepted their rights upon us. This is the promise of their claim and our responsibility that becomes valid automatically for everyone who is a recipient of benefit. There is no other more significant and respected element in the nature of humans and among the noted deeds in the world.


Now please think over this point. If we do not refuse the rights of our parents on ourselves, then He who has created them has much greater rights upon us. If we do not have the leeway to refuse the rights of our wives, how is it possible for us to refuse the rights of He who gave life to a woman to provide peace and companionship to a man! Who bestowed within human nature adherence to tribalism and attached a desire for collectivism in order to create kingship and kingdoms- He possesses far more right to be accepted as our Lord and Master.


When we believe in the rights of even cats and hens; accept a silent commitment and responsibility for cows and horses, why should we refuse the covenant to Him who created cows and horses, deserts and gardens, wind and water, fire and dust and who made them appropriate and beneficial for the sustenance of our existence?


From this debate it is proven that justice is in the nature of human beings. The demand of this justice is that human beings should accept the rights of their Benefactor and the greatest right is that He should be thanked and that no one else should be included in this gratitude. This is the reality which has been stated in Ahadith as “the greatest right of God upon His servants is that they do not associate anyone with Him.” This is the argument as stated by Abraham (sws).


وَ اتۡلُ عَلَیۡهِمۡ نَبَاَ اِبۡرٰهِیۡمَ . اِذۡ قَالَ لِاَبِیۡهِ وَ قَوۡمِهِ مَا تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ . قَالُوۡا نَعۡبُدُ اَصۡنَامًا فَنَظَلُّ لَهَا عٰکِفِیۡنَ . قَالَ هَلۡ یَسۡمَعُوۡنَکُمۡ اِذۡ تَدۡعُوۡنَ . اَوۡ یَنۡفَعُوۡنَکُمۡ اَوۡ یَضُرُّوۡنَ . قَالُوۡا بَلۡ وَجَدۡنَاۤ اٰبَآءَنَا کَذٰلِكَ یَفۡعَلُوۡنَ . قَالَ اَفَرَءَیۡتُمۡ مَّا کُنۡتُمۡ تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ . اَنۡتُمۡ وَ اٰبَآؤُکُمُ الۡاَقۡدَمُوۡنَ . فَاِنَّهُمۡ عَدُوٌّ لِّیۡۤ اِلَّا رَبَّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ . الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَنِیۡ فَهُوَ یَهۡدِیۡنِ . وَ الَّذِیۡ هُوَ یُطۡعِمُنِیۡ وَ یَسۡقِیۡنِ . وَ اِذَا مَرِضۡتُ فَهُوَ یَشۡفِیۡنِ . وَ الَّذِیۡ یُمِیۡتُنِیۡ ثُمَّ یُحۡیِیۡنِ . وَ الَّذِیۡۤ اَطۡمَعُ اَنۡ یَّغۡفِرَ لِیۡ خَطِیۡٓئَتِیۡ یَوۡمَ الدِّیۡنِ . (26: 69۔82)

 “And rehearse to them (something of) Abraham’s story. Behold, he said to his father and his people: “What worship you?” They said: “We worship idols, and we remain constantly in attendance on them.” He said: “Do they listen to you when you call (on them)” Or do you good or harm?” They said: “No, but we found our fathers doing thus (what we do).” He said: “Do you then see whom you have been worshipping,-” You and your fathers before you?- “For they are enemies to me; not so the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds; Who created me, and it is He Who guides me; Who gives me food and drink. And when I am ill, it is He Who cures me; Who will cause me to die, and then to life (again); And who, I hope, will forgive me my faults on the Day of Judgment.”


In other words, a Beneficial Being created us and after creation, did not leave us alone. He gave us guidance, first through our nature and then through revelation; gave us sustenance; health after illness; Who gives us death and then will give us life in order to recompense us for our deeds and from Whose mercy we hope to be treated well on the Day of Judgement. He is the One who is doubtless worthy of being worshipped. This evidence and argument is with us and our natural justice requires that we fulfill the right of our Benefactor’s favour in the form of our gratitude. It is the requirement of this justice that we do not associate anyone in this right of God without any palpable reason. This would be extreme injustice and open tyranny.


2.  Natural need for knowledge and belief 

The second important attribute of human nature is that it prefers light instead of darkness; knowledge instead of ignorance and serenity and calmness of heart instead of bewilderment and surprise. A man cannot tolerate that there be absence of a solution for the universe; that he remains in darkness about its beginning and end and ignorant of the purpose of his existence and its good and bad. That he may not know where he has come from and where he will go; what he should do with himself and how he should live with others. It is a requirement of his nature that he should ponder over all these questions; seek their answers and accept or negate. He may come up with a wrong answer of a specific query but he cannot remain oblivious of these questions. It is thus impossible for human beings to wander around in the dark.

This is the same natural need due to which humans have been stumbling in various valleys of search and curiosity. Sometimes, not finding the right answer, man has adopted something wrong, but it has never happened that he has settled down with no consideration of these issues. This is a natural thirst that must necessarily be quenched and whatever quenches it is the true answer. This thirst is quenched only with faith in God. All other things are unnatural excuses from which one’s mind can be deceived but tranquility cannot be achieved. Calmness is only possible through belief in God.


اَلَا بِذِکۡرِ اللّٰهِ تَطۡمَئِنُّ الۡقُلُوۡبُ. (38:13)

Hear that those whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of God. (13:28)


This is the light that reveals the entire universe and its beginning and end as soon as it comes on. اَللّٰهُ نُوْرُ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَالْاَرْضِ. “It is indeed God who is the light of the earth and skies.” (24:35) After attaining this, all questions of human beings are answered. Now man can imagine the beginning and end of the universe; establish the status of his being within this wide universe and understand what he is to do here. Now, principles of morality, rules for the economy, foundation for politics, all can be agreed upon. Now, he can take decisions about his past and future on the basis of insight. He would not be throwing a spear in the dark. He would not be suspicious of his own rationality and senses; he would not view himself with despair and contempt. Whatever step he takes on any path, he would do so firmly and strongly.

Even if after this, a person does not accept this solution because perhaps his senses and rationality might be deceiving him, this would be the worst kind of sophism. No doubt man’s senses can be wrong, but they have not been created to be always wrong. It is true that our wisdom may err in deducing correct results, but it is not assigned to deceive man always. It is also correct that there are serious divergences in opinions and decisions of humans, but if the agreements within them are refuted, it would be the same as refuting guidance. Such scepticism is completely against human nature. It is an artificial state which man has assumed upon himself, otherwise every action in his life is evidence of his belief. He is forced to believe and cannot take a single step without this belief. In spite of expressing his ignorance in many matters he declares many of his convictions, and among the latter is the greatest belief of all: that in the Being whose evidence can be found within and without him and without believing whom this entire universe is completely dark. It is impossible for man to accept darkness, unless he distorts his own nature. Thus, to recognize the existence of God and all His attributes, the greatest evidence is that man cannot find the solution to the question of the universe and of man’s own existence without God. This is the only solution that gives satisfaction; that opens all knots. The biggest proof of the truth and health of this solution is that it is the real desire of the search of rationality and correct answer to the heart’s thirst. No other rational or fake argument is necessary for this because an argument works where it is more evident than the original claim. Here, the claim is so bright that no argument can be brighter that it.  

Hence, belief in one God who is possessed of all greatness is the nature of human beings. After this, if man has created idols for himself, this is depravity and perdition. Because after believing in one God, the demand of nature is fulfilled; believing now in additional beings is a totally unnecessary addition on an absolute fact and open digression. فَمَا ذَا بَعْدَ الْحَقِّ اِلَّا الضَّلٰلُ (apart from truth, what (remains but error) (10:32). This is why the Qur’an has stated in many places that people who associate others with God do not have any reason for this. Belief in one God is necessary because without this, human nature cannot find satisfaction and its evidence is present within and without humans, but including others in godliness is without any proof:


فَتَعٰلَی اللّٰهُ الۡمَلِكُ الۡحَقُّ لَاۤ اِلٰهَ  اِلَّا هُوَ رَبُّ الۡعَرۡشِ الۡکَرِیۡمِ . وَ مَنۡ یَّدۡعُ مَعَ اللّٰهِ اِلٰهًا اٰخَرَ لَا بُرۡهَانَ لَهُ بِهِ فَاِنَّمَا حِسَابُهُ عِنۡدَ رَبِّهِ ؕ اِنَّهُ لَا یُفۡلِحُ الۡکٰفِرُوۡنَ . (23: 116۔117)

Therefore exalted be God, the King, the Reality: there is no god but He, the Lord of the Throne of Honour! If anyone invokes, besides God, any other god, he has no authority therefore; and his reckoning will be only with his Lord! and verily the unbelievers will fail to win through! (23:116-117)


3.  The Eminence of Human Nature

A very important argument for tawhid is the pride of human nature. By his very nature, man detests humiliation, obedience, subservience and submission and desires success and eminence. When he sees the miracles of his strengths and capabilities, he feels as if there is no being in the world that can equal his stature. A big psychological reason for this sense of superiority is that he is the best of God’s creations and His caliph and by nature, has come into this world with an innate characteristic of being above all others. Had this feeling of pride and superiority, appropriate to his status, not been granted to him, he would not have been able to fulfill his responsibilities. This reality has been beautifully captured in:


اِنَّا عَرَضۡنَا الۡاَمَانَةَ عَلَی السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ وَ الۡجِبَالِ فَاَبَیۡنَ اَنۡ یَّحۡمِلۡنَهَا وَ اَشۡفَقۡنَ مِنۡهَا وَ حَمَلَهَا الۡاِنۡسَانُ اِنَّهُ کَانَ ظَلُوۡمًا جَهُوۡلًا. (72:33)

We did indeed offer the trust to the heavens and the earth and the mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it;- he was indeed unjust and foolish. (33:72)


But here is not the place to go into these details. This feeling is what we see when man sometimes claims godliness:فَقَالَ اَنَا رَبُّکُمُ  الۡاَعۡلٰی (I am your Lord, Most High (79:24)); he sometimes shows the arrogance of قَالَ اَنَا اُحۡیٖ وَ اُمِیۡتُ (I also keep alive and kill (2:258)) and sometimes thinks of himself as the owner of destinies of nations and the sultan of land and seas, and instead of being the servant of God, begins to implement his own orders and instructions in God’s earth. But when he sees that with all this arrogance, his capabilities and strengths are surrounded between the two weaknesses of childhood and old age, he is forced to step down from the throne of godliness and stand in the row of servitude. He must then bow his head that he does not wish to in front of anyone, before a Force that is the source of all abilities and strengths and the Master and Creator of the earth and the skies. Obviously man does not adopt this humility because he possesses some inferior complex or he wishes to make a being his god; in fact, his real desire is to be a god himself. But when he observes the weakness of his capabilities despite his high ambitions, he has to submit to an Unseen Being. He is helpless in doing so. If he could escape this, he would surely have wished to avoid it. But he is forced to admit to a Superior Being, due to whose complete power this universe has come into existence and due to whose wisdom and design the entire system is operating. This arrogance of nature and claim of superiority in man is so intense and forceful that at times, he is not ready to accept the truth. A debate between Abraham (sws) and a king is mentioned in the Qur’an, in which the king is claimant to being god, because “I keep alive and I kill”. Abraham (sws) disclosed his helplessness and rendered him speechless with amazement when he asked him to enable the sun to rise from the West since God “makes the sun rise from the East.” But the satanic arrogance in the soul is so rebellious that even after being left speechless, he would not accept God. However, those whose wisdom is on the right path and who are right minded maintain their strengths and weaknesses in balance. They bow in front of the wise and sagacious Being, thus obtaining the alternate to their weakness and the treatment to their frailty. Their heart is, therefore, satisfied. If, after this, a person bows in front of any other being, his example is that of a wretched beggar who keeps wandering from door to door even after obtaining all that he needs from one door and the ignominy of his nature reaches such heights that he feels no shame in spreading out his hand in front of those who are more dependent and base than him.

It is obvious that such a situation is not the real one for human beings, but is a distortion in human nature. Just as we believe that dignity and pride is natural to humans in spite of a crowd of beggars, so does human nature demand tawhid even though polytheists might be in the majority. A woman gives herself to a man because she feels a vacuum inside her that cannot be filled without the support of a supporter. Now if a woman gives herself to other men even after she has filled her vacuum, she is a prostitute who has lost her virtuousness and beauty of her honour.

Hence the person who believes in God does not do so because he wishes to create a god, but he does so because he needs God; he feels a vacuum inside himself in spite of his abilities and powers that cannot be filled without belief in one God. Once he believes in Him, this vacuum is filled. Now if someone tells him that there are others besides Him who are worthy of being worshipped, the person would turn aside by saying that one God is enough for him: if the other wishes to bow his forehead in front of others, he is welcome to do so.

Joseph (sws) has referred to this supremacy of human nature in the speech he delivered to his fellow prison inmates:


وَ اتَّبَعۡتُ مِلَّةَ اٰبَآءِیۡۤ اِبۡرٰهِیۡمَ وَ اِسۡحٰقَ وَ یَعۡقُوۡبَ مَا کَانَ لَنَاۤ اَنۡ نُّشۡرِکَ بِاللّٰهِ مِنۡ شَیۡءٍ ذٰلِكَ مِنۡ فَضۡلِ اللّٰهِ عَلَیۡنَا وَ عَلَی النَّاسِ وَ لٰکِنَّ اَکۡثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا یَشۡکُرُوۡنَ. یٰصَاحِبَیِ السِّجۡنِ ءَاَرۡبَابٌ مُّتَفَرِّقُوۡنَ خَیۡرٌ اَمِ اللّٰهُ الۡوَاحِدُ الۡقَهَّارُ. مَا تَعۡبُدُوۡنَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِه اِلَّاۤ اَسۡمَآءً سَمَّیۡتُمُوۡهَاۤ اَنۡتُمۡ وَ اٰبَآؤُکُمۡ مَّاۤ اَنۡزَلَ اللّٰهُ بِهَا مِنۡ سُلۡطٰنٍ اِنِ الۡحُکۡمُ اِلَّا لِلّٰهِ اَمَرَ اَلَّا تَعۡبُدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِیَّاهُ ذٰلِكَ الدِّیۡنُ الۡقَیِّمُ وَ لٰکِنَّ اَکۡثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا یَعۡلَمُوۡنَ. (12: 38۔40)

And I follow the ways of my fathers,- Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and never could we attribute any partners whatever to God. That (comes) of the grace of God to us and to mankind: yet most men are not grateful. O my two companions of the prison! (I ask you): are many lords differing among themselves better, or the One God, supreme and irresistible? If not Him, you worship nothing but names which you have named,- you and your fathers,- for which God has sent down no authority: the command is for none but God. He has commanded that you worship none but Him: that is the right religion, but most men understand not. (12:38-40)


The first part of this speech means that God has graciously given a command to worship only Him and no one else. He has so respected and taken care of the sense of supremacy and pride that He has instilled within man that the latter is protected from having to bow in front of anyone else and instead, ordered him to bow only in front of Himself. But man has not been grateful to God for this blessing and has stigmatized the honour of his own soul and worshipped creations lesser than him. Joseph (sws) goes on to say that it is a necessity to believe in God and man, in spite of his pride, believes in God because the vacuum in his nature remains empty without this. Now the question is what is better: many different masters and lords to whom man is a servant, or should man obey only a single and powerful Lord? It is obvious that for a self respecting person, subservience to one God is enough: why would he create many gods? Now if one says that the single God would have ordered others to be worshipped as well, this statement has no proof. Instead, He has ordered that only He be worshipped and this is the natural belief. In other words, human nature too finds a proof within and outside of itself, but many have not recognized this natural belief in their own souls and have gone astray.

A parable based on the sense of supremacy of human nature has been mentioned in the Qur’an. It means that by his very nature, man prefers tawhid and not shirk:


ضَرَبَ اللّٰهُ مَثَلًا رَّجُلًا فِیۡهِ شُرَکَآءُ مُتَشٰکِسُوۡنَ وَ رَجُلًا سَلَمًا لِّرَجُلٍ هَلۡ یَسۡتَوِیٰنِ مَثَلًا اَلۡحَمۡدُ لِلّٰهِ بَلۡ اَکۡثَرُهُمۡ لَا یَعۡلَمُوۡنَ. (29:39)

God puts forth a parable: a man belonging to many partners at variance with each other, and a man belonging entirely to one master: are those two equal in comparison? Praise be to Allah. but most of them have no knowledge. (39:29)


In other words, who would prefer to be a servant to many masters of different temperaments and different needs? So, if no slave is ready to be humiliated in such a manner, why does man accept to associate many other deities of his own accord with one God? Is the situation of the slave of one God same as that of a slave who has several gods? Obviously this would not be so. Then the verse depicts the situation of human nature: gratitude be to God; the recipient of gratitude is only God and He has no one associated with Him.

The Qur’an, referring again to this supremacy in human nature, asks:


اَلَیۡسَ اللّٰهُ بِکَافٍ عَبۡدَهُ. (36:39)

Is not God enough for his servant? (39:36)


This is the eminence of the soul that man loses as soon as he is defiled with shirk. Suddenly, from the exalted heights of respect and dignity where God has placed him, he falls into the deep pits of baseness.


وَ مَنۡ یُّشۡرِكۡ بِاللّٰهِ فَکَاَنَّمَا خَرَّ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ فَتَخۡطَفُهُ الطَّیۡرُ اَوۡ تَهۡوِیۡ بِهِ الرِّیۡحُ فِیۡ مَکَانٍ سَحِیۡقٍ. (31:22)

If anyone assigns partners to God, is as if he had fallen from heaven and been snatched up by birds, or the wind had swooped (like a bird on its prey) and thrown him into a far- distant place. (22:31)  


At another place, the Qur’an states in clearer terms:


اَلَمۡ تَرَ اَنَّ اللّٰهَ یَسۡجُدُ لَهُ مَنۡ فِی السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ مَنۡ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ وَ الشَّمۡسُ وَ الۡقَمَرُ وَ النُّجُوۡمُ وَ الۡجِبَالُ وَ الشَّجَرُ وَ الدَّوَآبُّ وَ کَثِیۡرٌ مِّنَ النَّاسِ وَ کَثِیۡرٌ حَقَّ عَلَیۡهِ الۡعَذَابُ وَ مَنۡ یُّهِنِ اللّٰهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنۡ مُّکۡرِمٍ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ یَفۡعَلُ مَا یَشَآءُ. (18:22)

Do you not see that to God bow down in worship all things that are in the heavens and on earth,- the sun, the moon, the stars; the hills, the trees, the animals; and a great number among mankind? But a great number are (also) such as are fit for punishment: and such as God shall disgrace,- none can raise to honour: for God carries out all that He wills. (22:18)


The indication in this verse to the indignity of man is that all things in the universe prostrate only to the one God and, in spite of the fact that God has made them actively employed in the service and benefit of man, they do not accept the humiliation of servitude to the latter. However, man, even though he has superiority over these things and is being served by them, worships many among them.


4. Frailty and Indigence of Man

The fourth thing is man’s frailty and indigence that is his personal characteristic and that never gets separated from him. Doubtless man possesses a boundless treasure of capabilities and talents within himself; he is able to have the earth cough up its hidden treasures; lays out his throne high in the skies; cuts open mountains and races his ships on the seas, but in spite of all this, he knows that he is nothing himself. For he sees that of all of the abilities that he brings into action to accomplish these great feats, none has been created by him. He has also not brought into existence any of the things that he uses. All of these have been gifted to him by Someone else and they are also governed by laws made by Him. All that is within man’s power is that he should make an effort to understand these laws and utilize these laws to benefit him. This advantage is also for a limited period of time. Once this period has been completed, he cannot use any of these things to his benefit, regardless of however hard he tries. This feeling creates within man a need for an Unseen Being who has created him and all of that he uses and according to whose decreed laws the entire universe is running. This is man’s weakness and indigence which is mentioned in “یٰۤاَیُّهَا النَّاسُ اَنۡتُمُ الۡفُقَرَآءُ اِلَی اللّٰهِ  (It is you that have need of God)” (35:15).    

In another place it is said: وَاللّٰهُ الْغَنِيُّ وَاَنْتُمُ الْفُقَرَآءُ (But God is free of all wants, and it is you that are needy) (47:38).

Those that are wise feel this need of theirs in every phase and every turn of their lives. They are never ignorant and careless of God. As blessings increase upon them, they become more and more close to God. The best examples of this are David (sws), Solomon (sws), Dhu al-Qarnayn and ‘Umar Faruq (rta). But they who are simple or small minded become drunk with excess of wealth, large number of servants and actions of power and strength around them. They start imagining that they are also associates of God. The Qur’an mentions the Pharaoh, Haman, Qarun and Abu Lahab as examples of this type of people.

The people who are overcome by this kind of stupefaction have been described in the Qur’an through various similes for the frailty and neediness of man. However arrogant a man might be and to whatever extent he expresses disregard of God, he faces situations many times in his life that expose his weakness and helplessness. At that moment, the scream that he utters comes straight from his heart. In this situation, all his associates, whether his friends or his unseen deities, leave him to his fate. Only one Being remains who provides him His refuge of mercy. This argument has been stated in the Qur’an in several forms. Here we will give a few examples. The Qur’an says:


قُلۡ مَنۡ یُّنَجِّیۡکُمۡ مِّنۡ ظُلُمٰتِ الۡبَرِّ وَ الۡبَحۡرِ تَدۡعُوۡنَ تَضَرُّعًا وَّ خُفۡیَةً لَئِنۡ اَنۡجٰىنَا مِنۡ هٰذِهِ لَنَکُوۡنَنَّ مِنَ الشّٰکِرِیۡنَ. قُلِ اللّٰهُ یُنَجِّیۡکُمۡ مِّنۡهَا وَ مِنۡ کُلِّ کَرۡبٍ ثُمَّ اَنۡتُمۡ تُشۡرِکُوۡنَ.(6: 63۔64)

Say: “Who is it that delivers you from the dark recesses of land and sea, when you call upon Him in humility and silent terror: ‘If He only delivers us from these (dangers), (we vow) we shall truly show our gratitude’?” Say “It is God that delivers you from these and all (other) distresses: and yet you worship false gods!” (6:63-64)


هُوَ الَّذِیۡ یُسَیِّرُکُمۡ فِی الۡبَرِّ وَ الۡبَحۡرِ حَتّٰۤی اِذَا کُنۡتُمۡ فِی الۡفُلۡكِ وَ جَرَیۡنَ بِهِمۡ بِرِیۡحٍ طَیِّبَةٍ وَّ فَرِحُوۡا بِهَا جَآءَتۡهَا رِیۡحٌ عَاصِفٌ وَّ جَآءَهُمُ الۡمَوۡجُ مِنۡ کُلِّ مَکَانٍ وَّ ظَنُّوۡۤا اَنَّهُمۡ اُحِیۡطَ بِهِمۡ دَعَوُا اللّٰهَ مُخۡلِصِیۡنَ لَهُ الدِّیۡنَ لَئِنۡ اَنۡجَیۡتَنَا مِنۡ هٰذِهِ لَنَکُوۡنَنَّ مِنَ الشّٰکِرِیۡنَ. فَلَمَّاۤ اَنۡجٰهُمۡ اِذَا هُمۡ یَبۡغُوۡنَ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ بِغَیۡرِ الۡحَقِّ. (10: 62۔63)

He it is Who enables you to traverse through land and sea; so that you even board ships;- they sail with them with a favourable wind, and they rejoice there; then comes a stormy wind and the waves come to them from all sides, and they think they are being overwhelmed: they cry unto God, sincerely offering (their) duty unto Him saying, “If You will deliver us from this, we shall truly show our gratitude! But when He delivers them, Behold! they transgress insolently through the earth in defiance of right.” (10:62-63)


How true is this example of the rebelliousness, arrogance and obstinacy of a headstrong person! As long as the boat of his life sails smoothly in the sea of the world without any barriers, he remains proud of the stability of his existence and the excellence of his arrangements; he thinks that his wisdom and ploys are great; he shows off over his resources and proclaims his godliness without any foundation, outside of any gratitude and obedience to God. He swaggers with conceit; is haughty; drunk with the drug of success. But then suddenly the winds turn into a storm; the boat begins to rock; the buffet of waves turn the boat as if it is a blade of grass and all his ploys and systems become useless. Then he shouts inadvertently: “O God! If you would relieve me from this whirlpool of death, I shall never ignore you. I shall never be conceited and never dare claim being your associate. Instead, I will be your grateful servant and will obey only you. I will neither obey myself nor anyone else.” However, as soon as he is released from this trouble, his forgetfulness and drunkenness emerges. He once again submerges himself into the same wealth and pride which he had found so worthless and becomes a rebel of God and a polytheist again. God has declared such people as those who breach faith and are ungrateful. This is because when man remembers his covenant when he faces troubles and renews it, he forgets and breaks it as soon as his circumstances improve and becomes defiant of his blessings.

The purpose of this detail is to show that the feeling of neediness and indigence in man is absolutely natural and it takes him towards a Being who is his Protector and Supporter. If this weakness of a person remains obvious to him, he would never become involved in the shirk of egoism, stubbornness, arrogance, rebellion and pride. But, often, upon receipt of the blessings of God, he forgets his own neediness and frailty. But he only forgets; his nature does not change. Thus, as soon as a trouble comes upon him that shakes the foundations of his false satisfaction, his suppressed nature wakes up and he runs towards God, and forgets everything except Him.

We observe this nature awakening within the most rebellious of people. The proudest of men قَالَ اِنَّمَاۤ اُوۡتِیۡتُهُ عَلٰی عِلۡمٍ عِنۡدِیۡ (He said: “This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge which I have” (28:78)) had forgotten God in the arrogance of their possessions. Those who had driven flags of their power in the earth of God without any legitimacy; who were so enamoured of their own stability and moves that they laughed when God was mentioned are now seeing how helpless man is as they watch their own failures and worthlessness of their strengths. As a consequence, they have started to believe in God. لَعَلَّ اللّٰهَ یُحۡدِثُ بَعۡدَ ذٰلِكَ اَمۡرًا  (perhaps Allah will bring about thereafter some new situation) (65:1).


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)






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